Norm Van Brocklin's crowning achievement was the Philadelphia Eagles' 1960 NFL championship. The Eagles were definitely not the most talented team in the league that year, but Van Brocklin's passing -- and, more important, his determined leadership -- brought them victory.
A month after the Eagles defeated the Packers for the title, Van Brocklin retired to become coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings, writing finis to a stormy 12-season playing career.
In 1949, Van Brocklin (1926-1983) joined the Los Angeles Rams, opting to forego his final year of eligibility at the University of Oregon.
The 6'1", 190-pound sharpshooter was a firebrand leader, a fine field general, a brilliant passer, an exceptional punter, and perhaps the worst runner ever to get knocked flat in an NFL backfield. For that reason, he was a classic stay-in-the-pocket quarterback.
Although the "Dutchman" was ready for the Rams, the Rams already had a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback in Bob Waterfield. Van Brocklin and Waterfield shared playing time for four seasons until Waterfield retired.
Van Brocklin led the NFL in passing in 1950 and 1952, and Waterfield led in 1951, the year the Rams won the NFL championship.
In one game in 1951, the Dutchman passed for an NFL-record 554 yards against the New York Yanks.
Despite both team and personal success, the super-competitive Van Brocklin chafed at sharing time at quarterback. Once Waterfield was out of the picture, the situation didn't improve much.
Even though Norm won his third passing title in 1954 when he averaged over 10 yards per attempt, he still often found himself sharing time with another quarterback; young Bill Wade was the new phenom. Finally, Van Brocklin demanded a trade.
In 1958, the Rams exiled Van Brocklin to Philadelphia, a team habitually at the bottom of the standings. New Eagles coach Lawrence "Buck" Shaw gave Norm a virtual free hand with the offense, and the team improved each year, culminating in the 1960 championship season.
In 12 seasons, Van Brocklin passed for 23,611 yards and 173 touchdowns. He also punted 523 times for a 42.9 average and "ran" (if you would call it that) for 11 scores.
To learn more about football greats, see:
- Great Football Players
- Great Offensive Football Players
- Great Defensive Football Players
- Great Football Coaches